Different iron oxide structures were formed by annealing of iron foils in air at temperatures between 500 °C to 800 °C. Depending on temperature, a significant variation in the hematite/magnetite ratio and a strongly temperature dependent morphology is obtained. While over a wide range of conditions more or less compact Fe 3O 4/Fe 2O 3 layers are obtained, at 600 °C rapid growth (several micrometer per hour) of highly crystalline hematite nanowires can be observed. Visible light photocurrent measurements in 1 M NaOH under AM 1.5 100 mW/cm 2 conditions show that photocurrent density and the onset potential for water oxidation strongly shifted in the cathodic direction for the nanowire morphology. The results indicate that a simple air oxidation of iron can provide a rapid path to form hematite nanowires. Obtained layers are considerably active as photoanodes for solar water splitting. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.